The fourth annual Bahama’s Bowl kicks off Friday at 12:30 p.m. ET from the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau. This year’s matchup features Ohio and UAB.
A lot of planning and reasoning went into this game, which joined the Hawaii Bowl among current bowl games that are separate from the Mainland.
How did this come about?
In October 2013, the Bahamas’ minister of tourism announced the game, along with reps from Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West, the Sun Belt, and the American Athletic Conference. It’s a game created by mid-majors, for mid-majors.
We wrote about this bowl game’s inception back in 2014, going behind the scenes at the first-ever edition.
The story starts with the success of the Battle 4 Atlantis, a college basketball tournament held on the island since 2010, played on an improvised court in a ballroom at the Atlantis Resort.
"I've probably been to the majority of the bowls, and I can tell you this bowl experience will parallel virtually any bowl experience anywhere," says Banowsky. "Many of these student-athletes will never have the opportunity to come back here. So you're really creating something here that's special that you wouldn't have in one of the traditional places."
The Bahamas gets to put its name on TV, and when people see the Bahamas on TV, they want to go spend money in the Bahamas.
"From a publicity point of view, it's been really good for us," says Tommy Thompson, deputy director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. "People see the Bahamas as sun, sand, and sea. But there's much more to the Bahamas than just sun, sand, and sea. This event shows what people from the Bahamas can do when we put our minds to it."
OK, so who has participated in so far?
Western Kentucky and Central Michigan played in the inaugural game. The end featured a ridiculous hook-and-ladder Hail Mary, bringing the Chippewas within one point, with the two-point conversion failing.
Western Michigan got the victory over Middle Tennessee in 2015, the first bowl W in school history and a launching point for this year’s 13-0 run by WMU. Last year, Old Dominion beat Eastern Michigan, giving the Monarchs their first bowl win in school history.
Wait, Nassau has a football stadium?
Sure! This stadium was finished in 2012, holds 15,000 people, and was a gift to the Bahamas from China. The original Thomas Robinson Stadium, which stood next to the new facility, was built in 1981. Work on the new stadium began in 2009 and cost $30 million.
The facility features a natural grass field for American football and soccer, as well as a track surface.
Teams get pretty psyched about going this bowl
Players and coaches of the team get to stay in the world famous Atlantis Resort, which has an amazing water park.
Our story from two years ago captures some of what it’s like for the players.
It is obvious that there is a football game here. There are 200 large football players at the Atlantis enjoying the hell out of every moment. They're walking around the casino, although their coaches have warned that if they lose their per diem, they won't have money for food. We only hear about one player gambling, but we see a few gawking. They're in the luxury shops, asking the Hublot employees if they're allowed to try on the five-figure watches. [No.] They're in the water park, giggling and yelling about whether you can swim with the sharks. [No.]
And if that isn’t enough, take a look at how some of the teams reacted when they found out they got to go bowling in the Bahamas.
Football is actually pretty popular in the Bahamas
Both of the Bahamas Bowls have had reported attendance of over 13,000, which is fine for a stadium that seats 15,000 and a non-power game that isn’t in the United States.
More on that from the game in 2014:
Football fans of the Bahamas come out in full force. I'd estimate local fans outnumber the contingents from WKU and CMU two-to-one, at least. Even though college teams are playing, every Bahamian with an NFL jersey wears it to the game. The most popular looks to be former Dolphins LB Zach Thomas.
"I've always been an avid Dolphin fan," says David Adderley, vice president of the Bahamas American Football Association. "Here, it's just like watching football everywhere else in the world. You've got your backyard barbecues, you've got your big screen TVs, a couple of them going on. Everybody jokes. Everybody watches."
RIP to Popeyes as the bowl's sponsor.
Yes, the fried chicken institution is sadly no longer the sponsor of the Bahamas Bowl. What was funny about it when it was, though, was that there were no Popeyes locations in the Bahamas until this bowl happened. Now there are two.
From our 2014 story:
There are no Popeyes in the Bahamas. To make the chicken at the bowl events, Popeyes has shipped in friers from the mainland. To make matters worse, Bahamians are fanatical about one of Popeyes' primary competitors, KFC.
I see people with "I (heart) KFC" bumper stickers. One truck I see has a pair on his windshield. This man was so passionate about his preferred brand of fried chicken that he restricted his field of vision while driving to let the world know.
Some residents remember Popeyes, which had a franchise on the islands several decades back.
"They failed," exclaims Buddy B., owner of a seafood stand. "They could not beat Kentucky! You can't beat Kentucky!"
When this game was announced in 2013, a six-year contract went along with it, so we’ve got this bowl for at least another two more years. Hopefully, we can keep this new, fun bowl tradition alive in the future.
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